Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Google Wave: A Tidal Advancement in Web Communication

Google Wave Logo
Google Wave, announced back in May, to soft-launch to 100k lucky users tomorrow, September 30th, 2009. I'm dying to get one. So what's the buzz all about?

Allow me to first attempt to describe what Wave is. Google Wave is an in-browser communication and collaboration tool that is sure to "unify" communication on the web. Google Wave is an open-source real-time communication platform. It combines many (if not most) aspects of email, instant messaging (IM), wikis (like Wikipedia), web chat, social networking, content management and project management; all built into one elegant, in-browser communication client.

One of Google Wave's primary developers described it as "what email would look like if it were invented today."
In Google's own words:
What is a wave?
A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared. Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live. With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in real-time.

So what is a "wave?"

Think of a "wave" as a document or a message ... well, more like one's entire chat history with a friend; including any 3rd or more parties that may have been "conferenced" in from time to time.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_UyVmITiYQ

I could write a small book about what I think of Google Wave, and I've not had the pleasure of trying it yet. Reading about it and watching a video on it was plenty to get me intrigued. If you don't have time to watch the awesome 80-minute video above (no, it's not because I'm a geek), which can be found at google.com/wave, then I invite you to visit Lifehacker to watch the focused & chopped-up summary-tidbits of the same video.


Google Wave is well on its way to becoming a paradigm-shifter. The approach behind Google Wave is best summarized into three categories: The first is Google Wave, the product, which Google creates, works on and eventually releases to the public as a web app. The second is Google Wave, the platform, which is a system in place for developers to get involved in and create things for. But the third aspect is Google Wave, the protocol, which is its existence as a web communication platform. Let me say that again, Google Wave is not just a wiki, email, a document management system and IM on steroids it is a product, a platform and a protocol ... all in one open-source in-browser application.

All three parts are equally important, but for me personally, the protocol part is truly amazing. Like email (you can send an email from your Yahoo! account to someone who's got a Hotmail or Gmail account, for example), Google Wave has been developed as a standard that will be able to run on any server, so it won't belong to Google. Anyone will be able to run their own "Wave," and that Wave can compete with Google or do whatever it wants to. But since it's created as a standard protocol, different waves can talk to and understand each other.

Google Wave's functionality, extensions and embeds alone are sure to impact not only tools out there in the social media & Web 2.0 sphere, but it could literally take over and render obsolete sites like Wikipedia, Google's own GDocs & GReader, site/blog commenting and even off-the-shelf software packages like content management systems (unless they build their own Wave extensions, which might be key to their survival). Now that I think about it, Google Wave may be the pioneer for "Web 3.0."

The drag-and-drop file upload alone is sure to be a hit. No more will a user need to search, attach and open files as we currently do with email. Google Wave ignores that entire process by allowing users to drag files from the desktop and dropping them. Anyone can then see the files as they’re being uploaded. Similar to Posterous, images are shown in an album format, music can be played, and docs can be quickly shared ... all right there, live!


Aside from the wiki-like features, and seeing others type character-by-character live, gaming will be amazing. As demonstrated, playing chess will be very possible from one's Wave. Complex real-time games are just around the corner. That's where Google Wave Gadgets will come in. As Mashable describes it:
A Wave Gadget is one of two types of Google Wave extensions. Gadgets are fully-functional applications. According to Google, gadgets are primarily for changing the look and feel of waves, although this seems to only scratch the surface of the potential of a wave gadget.

First: almost any iGoogle or OpenSocial gadget can run within Google Wave. That means thousands of applications that have been already created will work in Google Wave. Second: a gadget built within Google Wave can take advantage of live interaction with multiple users. This means something like a live online game with active participation from all users. In that way, it has similarities to Facebook or MySpace applications, which take advantage of your friend network to make games, quizzes, and applications more meaningufl and useful.

Gadgets are specific to individual waves, rather than to specific users. Thus, it’s not like having a Facebook app on your profile – the gadget belongs to everyone within the wave. They also do not have titles, to better integrate with the actual conversation. Some of the gadgets already built include a Sudoku gadget, Bidder (which turns your Wave into an auction), and Maps (which allows for collaboration on a Google Map).

For a more technical explanation, be sure to check out Google’s Wave Gadgets Tutorial.

As I've alluded to before, this barely scratches the surface. I urge you to watch the 80-minute video above. It's truly worth it whether you are a geek like me or not. I know that there are already a few "apps" for Google Wave, which I'm going to go ahead and be the first to call "wapps" (different from for a WAP, of course), like the Twitter extension (Twave), which ... well ... it's obvious. What others do you see happening in the near future? Share with us in the comments.  ▣

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